Reclaiming Joy in Home Making

Update: This series was delayed due to the loss of my grandfather (you can read more about this here and on my Instagram page.) Thank you for all of your prayers, condolences and well wishes! I’m grateful for you. ❤ Cait

With busy schedules, lots of stress and lots of mess, its easy to let our homes become a hub of disarray. When we find ourselves discouraged, bitter or overwhelmed, how can we find our way back to the meaning and beauty hidden in the daily grind?

I could go into chore charts and scheduling but, if I’m being honest, it’s not my forte (like, at all!). Instead I’ll share the little things I do to help me reset, refresh and reclaim the joy of homemaking in a big way!

Own It

When people hear the term homemaking they usually think of a stay-at-home mom. Being a work-from-home mama myself, I know for certain that the two go hand in hand! But, home making is not limited to those whose life’s work takes place within their own four walls. Anyone who has a place to live owes it to themselves (& all who dwell there) to make it a home!

Until recently, it seemed that the titles of homemaker and stay-at-home mom carried negative connotations; the work done behind closed doors underestimated or undervalued. But, with more people working and spending leisure time at home than ever before due to the Corona Virus pandemic, the question of “What do you do all day?” seems to have answered itself!

Be Your Own Manager

Because you aren’t necessarily getting the same validation from keeping a home as you would from say a paycheck or a GPA, it can be easy to lose sight of your progress and your goals.

Instead of money and grades, look to your surroundings, yourself and your family as a barometer. Is your home a place that is functional? Does it offer you places for work and leisure? Does it reflect your personal style? Does it serve as a reprieve for your family at the end of a long day?

Answering these questions will help you to see which areas might need tweaking to reclaim your joy.

Vocation Over Occupation

If you’re doing it well, home making is challenging. It involves cleaning, appointments, errands, meetings, needs that are endless and tasks that keep repeating. You tidy the playroom and the kids immediately dump their toys. You unload the dishwasher and the sink fills again within hours. You sweep and mop just so milk can splash across your once-clean floor.

When I start to feel dissatisfied with another un-eaten dinner, half-finished project or mountain of laundry staring me down, I’m tempted to grumble and think,

“What’s the point?”

If I’m not careful, I can let these thoughts fester and turn to anger or even resentment. I’ve learned to nip these feelings of futility in the bud by remembering how important this work truly is. Not only to my family but to the world and most importantly, the Lord. What I do isn’t significant because I’m the best at it or because no one else can do these things, but because it is meant for me to do.

Regardless of passions, goals and roles in my life, my primary function and means of sanctification will be my duty as a wife and mother. My vocation today needs to be my main focus and motivation. If I realize all of my ambitions for the future that is great but what’s most important is where God has me right now! How I love those I serve, steward my blessings and live the present moment.

Create a Sacred Space

This next tip that has saved my sanity more than once! Create a sacred space. Set aside a room or quiet corner of your home that serves as a quick escape throughout your day. Clean this area first-thing in the morning and try to scoot the children out if you’re not there yourself.

Since daytime isn’t ideal for long baths or uninterrupted reading, simple, striking things work best. Include décor you enjoy and things that relax you as soon as you enter. For me this is usually the master bedroom, which means it’s a place that my husband can take a breather as well. It’s a place that feels like its just ours in a home where everything is shared. Whether it’s a freshly made bed, a window view, calming music or a piece of art, a place to find some peace and take a breath is something all homemakers need. Don’t forget to take care of you, as you care for your surroundings!

Reset and refresh

When we look at homemaking through a bitter eye, we forget that it’s an art! One way to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind is to refresh and reset often. I don’t just mean organization (though the more of that, the better!) but daily routines and seasonal changes that keep things interesting.

I change tablecloths and linens regularly, swap out heavy winter curtains for lighter ones in the spring, use seasonal décor that’s easy to switch out and use each season like throw pillows or wreaths on your door. My go-to for keeping things fresh day to day are vases of flowers and flickering candles at night. There is something about pulling back the curtains first thing in the morning to let the sunshine in and the warmth of candle light in the night that bookends the day so nicely.

That’s what home is all about, little comforts, small respites and rewards that all notice and appreciate (whether they tell you directly or not!). Creating a dwelling that you and your loved ones truly enjoy is so fulfilling. As the heart of our homes, we set the tone. The ability to transform a space, guide the day and create an environment that reflects who you are as a family is a wonderful thing!

It’s how you live

I’ve heard it said that when it comes to home life, it’s not what you have but, how you live. If we love something, we will purchase it but as a young family of five, we try to limit unnecessary spending.

Until recently, all of our furniture and most of our décor had been second or even third hand (Shout out to my Dad for generously gifting us bedroom furniture this past Christmas). Most of the time no one would guess, because we use the best of what we have and try to care well for it.

When it comes to furniture, I truly believe that less is more. Less surfaces make for far less clutter to keep up with and a little floor space goes a long way visually. Being choosy about the pieces in our home makes us more likely to opt for ones we really find functional or charming.

At our place, we do our best not to keep junk around but I do get creative when needed. I’ll put a framed photo over that nick in the drywall, and use pretty blankets to cover the hole in the family room sofa. I repaint lots of furniture and repurpose what I can. Sometimes, rearranging our old stuff makes it look brand new and inspires new appreciation for what we already own. When we detach from the idea of a perfect home, we free ourselves to take pride in the one we have.

Teach your children well

Lighten up, Mama! Do your future self a favor and let the kiddos help. Older children should have greater responsibilities but, everyone can pitch in somehow. My 4-year-old daughter likes to help me fold the laundry and my 2-year-old loves to “dust” with a damp cloth. It may mean I have to re fold those towels or wipe the coffee table a second time, but that’s really not the point!

Passing your homemaking skills down to your children and praising them for their efforts can be a fun time for boding, conversation and making memories. Accomplishing small tasks builds confidence and being responsible for their own messes begets accountability. Teaching children to clean is part of preparing them for an independent life and framing chores as a natural part of every day means less resistance to household duties when their older. My hope is that my patience with my kids now will benefit us all in the long run.

Let the dishes wait

If you can’t always keep up, it only means that you’re succeeding! Homemaking is not a contest to see who’s can be cleaner or prettier or more organized. No, the home serves a much deeper purpose as the very foundation of family life. All of your attention and effort within it serve an ultimate goal: to create a safe and comfortable place for your family to live. Don’t get so caught up in doing that you miss out on the moments that matter.

I can’t say it any better than Ruth Hulburt Hamilton in her poem Song for a Fifth Child. Let these word encourage you on the days you just can’t seem to do it all.

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

~ Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

What helps you reclaim joy in your home? Share the hacks and habits that work for you in the comments!

❤ Cait

St. Joseph and the Blended Family

I was managing a small chiropractic office and the doctor I worked for was talented and nice but also eccentric and quite a talker! The only two employees in the small home based practice, we chatted all day between patients. With his kids running in and out, family was a common topic of conversation. At the time I was expecting my second daughter, the first child that my husband and I would share biologically.

One day during a lull while discussing my growing brood the doc asked, “So, how does your husband feel about the new baby on the way?” I smiled and responded that naturally, we’re both excited and a little nervous. “Our oldest is in 3rd grade already,” I said. “It’s like we’re starting over!” He laughed in sympathy, then said “This will be a whole new adventure for him though since this is his first child.”

Continue reading “St. Joseph and the Blended Family”

10 Ways To Feel Like Yourself Again After Baby

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When you’re expecting it’s all about the baby! You’ve spent the last 9 months preparing for and thinking about this huge life change. Now that your little one has made the transition to your arms they are your first priority.

Welcoming a new baby changes everything and the first few months can be brutal. Between sleepless nights and painful nursing its easy to fade into the shuffle of meeting your newborn’s needs. But, if you want to care for them well it helps to care for you, too! Here are a few things that can help you feel more like yourself again as you adjust to your new normal.

Continue reading “10 Ways To Feel Like Yourself Again After Baby”

Bumpkin Pumpkin: We Tried This Cute Pinterest Trend

The Great Bumpkin Pumpkin! My preteen saw this cute and simple fall craft on Pinterest a while ago and couldn’t stop talking about it! She bugged me for weeks saying we just had to do it with her little brother because it was too cute!

Continue reading “Bumpkin Pumpkin: We Tried This Cute Pinterest Trend”

Free Back to School Devotional

Today is my daughter’s first day of school and to kick off the academic year right I created a free 5 day Back to School mini devotional! Since many kids have already returned to school or start mid-week like mine, this devotional is made for Monday-Friday. It’s never too late to begin!

“The dog days of summer have come to an end and the cool autumn winds carry with them with them a new school year. Whether we home school or send our kiddos on their way each day, households with school aged kids have to adjust and settle back into the school year routine.

I think parents and kids alike could use some encouragement to help us ease into the new academic year confidently and prayerfully. I hope that this 5 day mini-devotional will help you to do just that!”

Click the link to get started and have an amazing year!

Free Back to School Devotional!

❤ Cait

Postpartum: Why Its More Than Just The First 6 Weeks

We’ve come home, bonded, and established nursing. We’re back to driving, cleaning and errands. When weeks begin to turn to months, especially at the 6 week point, the pressure is on to let go of our birth experiences and move on. We are expected to be completely healed and back to our daily grind full force. We’re cleared to exercise and should be focused on getting back into pre-pregnancy shape. People around us start checking in on us less and we put pressure on ourselves to be back to “normal”. This pressure is only stronger by our society’s obsession with post baby celebrities in their slinky dresses and Instagram models posing with their newborns in body shapers and full glam.

Yet, I don’t feel normal. I had a harder delivery and slower recovery this time and I don’t feel “over it”. I just got to a point where I’m almost totally pain free and besides the occasional stroll I haven’t started working out. The world may have forgotten but my body hasn’t as it continues to feel  the twinges of muscles repairing themselves from surgery, the ache of streams of milk, and my noticeably weaker knees. I’m still sporting my linea nigra , stretch marks and a fresh red scar. I still feel emotional about having a newborn. But I’ve reached the 6 week mark! I’m not “postpartum” anymore. Why don’t I have it back together by now?

When I was pregnant I used a week by week pregnancy tracker, asked my midwife a million questions and googled every little symptom. Yet up until today I had neglected to brush up on anything regarding the post-partum period beyond my c-section recovery.  This was not due to me thinking that I know it all by the third time around. I just got so wrapped up in the baby that I forgot all about checking in with myself.

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So what did I learn on my quest for knowledge? That the postpartum period doesn’t abruptly end at the 6 week mark, but consists of 3 distinct phases:

The Initial or Acute period- This is the first 6-12 hours after your baby is born where you’re potential for complications is higher and you’re monitored closely by the hospital or midwife.

The Sub-acute period- which last 2-6 weeks, when you are more stable but still recovering from delivery. This is what most people think of as “postpartum”.

The Delayed period- According to an article on The Journal of Prenatal Medicine website, this period can last up to 6 months! The article states:

“This is the time of restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the prepregnant state. Although change is subtle during this phase, it behooves caregivers to remember that a womanʼs body is nonetheless not fully restored to pre-pregnant physiology until about 6 months post-delivery.”

No wonder I don’t feel normal again yet, I’m not! The article goes on to say that in some ways we may never be back to our pre-pregnant state and certainly, our lives are changed by our little ones forever. Yet, once the baby comes Earthside we’re encouraged to show as little evidence of carrying a child as we can. We’re told to get back to work, tone up and erase the marks left on our bodies as quickly as possible. As if it’s something shameful.

We shouldn’t be ashamed. We should be proud of all of the ways in which motherhood has changed us, body and soul! Though sometimes I struggle to appreciate my postpartum body, it has done amazing things. These lines and scars are symbols of sacrifice and strength. This vessel has co-created with God. Its loved, housed and grown my family. It continues to nourish myself and flourish my baby. When the temptation to rush back to some false sense of normalcy comes I need to remind myself to take it slow. To be less eager to shed these signs of pregnancy, these physical memories, and to fully appreciate them for the beauty that they represent.

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Did you feel pressure from yourself or others to get back to normal after baby? Share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

How I Prepared My Kids for a New Baby (& Family Update)

Hello Friends,

After a short and much needed hiatus I am finally beginning to feel like myself again and this includes getting back to blogging! Here’s a little update on what has been happening the last couple of months.

On May 31st 2018 our youngest daughter turned 2!

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Five days later on June 5th 2018 we welcomed a healthy baby boy!

Yay! Our family is complete!

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But going from a family of 4 to a family of 5 is a huge change! Here are some ways that I prepared my kids to welcome the new baby. I hope that you can use some of these ideas if you are adding another monkey to your zoo soon as well (& if so, Congrats!).

For My Toddler:

No Stork Talk-

When I found out I was expecting again I wondered how much of it my toddler would understand. Pregnancy is mind blowing even to those of us who experience it! Nevertheless, I spoke to her about my pregnancy (in an age appropriate way of course) as if she could understand. We told her excitedly that there was a baby in Mama’s belly that would part of our family soon. Even if they don’t grasp the concept of gestation completely they may pick up on more than you think! I’ve learned not to underestimate the comprehension and emotional intelligence our little ones can have.

Songs and Stories-

Songs and stories are a fun way to introduce the concept of a new baby. Reading books and listening to songs with baby themes is a great way for kids to learn through a comfortable medium. Here’s a song that my daughter really liked: Song (via YouTube)

Promote them to “Big”-

I made sure to pump our daughter up for her brand new role as “big sister”. We reminded her often of her upcoming ‘promotion’ and told her what to expect by telling her how much fun she would have playing with her new sibling. We also bought “Big Sister” shirts for the girls to wear to the hospital. A special outfit highlighted how special of a day it was.

Acknowledge Baby’s Personhood-

Show your little one that the new baby is a part of the family by treating them as such even before they’re born. Include the baby as part of your conversations during your daily routine, “The baby likes these waffles, do you?”. Refer to the baby in your tummy often while doing everyday activities, “Baby loves being outside with us in the fresh air!” I encouraged my toddler to kiss and hug and talk to my growing tummy. She learned to pat it and call it baby, and would even play peek-a-boo using my shirt!:)

At Christmastime I hung a tiny stocking for the baby on the mantle with the rest of the family’s (did this with each of my kids). Recognizing personhood of the baby in the pregnancy helps to establish affection early. I truly feel it is so important and helps prepare everyone (including yourself) for the reality to come.

-Hello Dolly

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Children learn so much through play and incorporating a baby doll is a great way to teach kids how babies should be treated. I enjoyed quality time with my kiddo while modeling appropriate behavior. We giggled as we pretended to feed, change, and dress the doll. I made sure to praise her for being nice to the doll and being a great helper!

-Hi Baby!

When you see a baby at the mall or grocery store, point them out! Remind your child that your’s is in your tummy. I liked to say hello to the baby and their caregiver and comment on the cuteness. She so enjoyed greeting all of the babies we saw and eventually she was the one pointing them to me!

Now-

Now that the baby is here she is adapting so well. She loves baby dolls even more now and seeing her mimicking my motherhood is super adorable. Once she met the baby in my arms she never again refered to the baby as being in my stomach. It seems she made the connection of them being one in the same right away (see what I mean about not underestimating?)

There are still jealous times sharing mom but she is loving her brother! She enjoys giving hugs and kisses and is naturally maternal. She fusses over him when he cries, patting him and cooing “It’s okay baby.” in her tiny little voice. I also noticed that she treats other kids that are younger than her more gently and much in the same way she now treats her brother. She’s learning so much from him already!

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For My Preteen:

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My oldest daughter is middle school aged and a seasoned big sister. She understands much more about whats going on than my toddler but I still prepared her by involving her in some baby prep and giving her a few reminders.

What do You Think?-

Invite older kid’s suggestions about things like names and room decor. Kids are creative, you never know what cool ideas they could come up with! For us brainstorming names was a fun way to build some anticipation and involve her in an important aspect of having a new baby.

News Flash-

At 11 you sometimes forget that the world doesn’t revolve around you! I made sure to remind her that things would be different for a while. No friends at the house and not as many activities in the weeks that followed baby’s homecoming. The postpartum period should be about bonding as a family.

Mom Needs Rest-

Families are great for the support we can give to eachother and older kids are a seriously valuable asset! Before my due date I gave my daughter a heads up about increased responsibility around the house. Since I couldn’t do as much during my c-section recovery, her completing her chores and helping with her sister became even more important! She is old enough to complete household tasks of significance and while she is too young to babysit on her own, she is more than capable of playing with our toddler or reading her a book to keep her occupied if Mom’s tied up.

You’re A Role Model-

I reminded her that these kids will look up to her for more reasons than just their height difference! They will be influenced greatly by her example. She’s my right hand gal and so important to our family!

Now-

The babies keep us busy but I make it a point not to put parenting my older one on autopilot. One on one time and activities for older kids only help her not to feel swept aside. She loves her little brother too! She likes to hold him and give him silly nick names.

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As for Mom and Dad? We’re adjusting to more laundry, diapers, feedings, and less sleep than we remember from the last baby! I was lucky to have my husband take time off of work to be home with me for a while. We feel so blessed and cant wait to see how our children’s relationships continue to grow throughout the years.

How did you prepare your family for a new baby? If you have any tips or fun ideas please share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

Read more about Adjusting to Life with a Toddler and a Newborn here!